SCOTUS will hear 1990s Oklahoma murder case

Posted at 5:32 PM, May 21, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-22 08:02:33-04

TULSA -- The US Supreme Court said they will hear a decades-old murder case from Oklahoma.

In the 1990s, Muscogee Creek Nation member Patrick Murphy was sentenced to death for killing another member of his tribe. 

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed his conviction. They ruled that the crime happened on tribal land and Murphy should never have been tried by the state. 

Until recently, state and federal officials assumed tribal boundaries no longer existed. The appeals court ruled last summer that those boundaries do still exist. 

An attorney we spoke to tells us the decision the SCOTUS makes could have a broader impact. 

"There is a possibility that people who are presently incarcerated who would fall into the category of being an Indian and having committed an offense on what is referred to as "Indian Land" could file an application for post-conviction relief," Gregory Meier, a Tulsa Indian Law Attorney, said. "It is estimated there are a couple hundred in Oklahoma state prisons today."

The Muscogee Creek Nation encompasses about 4,600 square miles, including most of Tulsa. 

If the Supreme Court upholds the appeals court ruling, the state would likely just have authority over traffic violations and crimes against people not of Native American descent. 

Other tribes could also claim their boundaries still exist. That would mean about 40-percent of Oklahoma could become Indian territory. 

Attorney General Mike Hunter said his office looks forward to presenting their case and getting clarity for the state.

It is unclear when the SCOTUS could make a ruling. 

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